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What is a Power of Attorney?
A Power of Attorney (or POA, as they’re often called) is a legal document that allows someone you choose to make legal, financial and/or personal decisions about your estate on your behalf. You can choose in what circumstances and what type of decisions that person can make for you. This is a useful document to have in place if you fall ill unexpectedly, have an accident or start to experience some diseases common in old age, like dementia. The Power of Attorney can also be used if you go overseas or interstate and want someone to take care of some matters for you in your absence.
What decisions does a Power of Attorney allow someone to carry out on your behalf?
Your Power of Attorney can give someone you choose the power to make financial, legal or personal decisions on your behalf. The decisions about your estate that can be made should be outlined in the Power of Attorney. Financial decisions may include operating your bank account or controlling your business. Legal decisions may include selling your property or negotiating and signing contracts for your business. While personal decisions may include making lifestyle decisions like choosing to put an elderly parent into an aged care facility.
Types of Power of Attorney
There are different types of Power of Attorney – General Power of Attorney and Enduring Power of Attorney.
In Victoria, there are also special Power of Attorney documents that allow people to make medical decisions on behalf of another and for you to document your personal choices when it comes to medical treatment. These are called an Appointment of a Medical Treatment Decision Maker and an Advance Care Directive.
Enduring Power of Attorney
An Enduring Power of Attorney is one that continues even if you are able to make your own decisions. It gives someone the power to make financial and/or personal decisions on your behalf. This is often useful if you’re getting older and are finding it harder to do everything for yourself or have the onset of a disease, like dementia.
To make an Enduring Financial Power of Attorney, you must be able to make and understand your own decisions at the time the POA is signed. If you wait until you’re already unwell it may be too late.
General Non-Enduring Power of Attorney
A General Non-Enduring Power of Attorney gives someone the ability to act on your behalf in specific circumstances. It may be used if you need some assistance for a specific reason, like to buy or sell a house, manage your business or while you’re overseas or unwell. Once they’ve done what you need, the POA is no longer valid.
A General Financial Power of Attorney also ends if you die, become bankrupt or permanently lose the ability to make decisions for yourself, or if you set a specific date for it to come to an end.
Medical Treatment Decision Makers & Advance Care Directives
In Victoria, there are two specific types of medical documents that you can create. A Medical Treatment Decision Maker is someone that can make decisions about your medical treatments for you if you no longer can, like if you have dementia. It’s like a medical power of attorney, but they must take into account any Advance Care Directive that you have created and anything else that you have told them.
An Advance Care Directive is a document where you outline your preferences when it comes to medical care. If you’re not able to make decisions for yourself, this must be taken into account by both your Medical Treatment Decision Maker and your health care professionals.